A303 Dual It! Family of couple who died in crash back campaign
The deaths of a couple on the A303 last year sparked the Western Gazette to call for action to be taken to make the road safer. Our subsequent A303 Dual It! campaign has attracted more than 2,500 signatures. This week reporter Claire Smyth spoke to the family of the couple after an inquest into their deaths...
The family of a couple who died in a horrific crash on the Ilminster bypass have called for the A303 to be dualled.
Paul Michael Hobday, 60, and girlfriend Christine Michelle Edney, 69, both of Canvey Island, Essex, died in a head-on collision with a van travelling the opposite direction on Thursday, August 30, last year.
They were travelling westbound to Cornwall when the crash happened at around 8.25am.
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A dog also perished.
Mr Hobday’s son, also called Paul Hobday, and Ms Edney’s daughter Therese Downing, have now signed the Western Gazette’s petition calling for the Government to dual the A303 through Somerset and Dorset.
Mr Hobday junior, 36, of Benfleet, Essex, said making the road safer was the legacy he wants for his father.
He wants the road to have a central reservation – which it would if it were a dual carriageway.
Speaking after an inquest into the couple’s deaths, he said: “If anything positive can come from accidents like this, it should be improvements in road safety.
“Anything that can be done to improve safety on that stretch of road, or any of the roads in Somerset, I would support.
“Something as simple as a central reservation could have prevented two people losing their lives and one person suffering life changing injuries.
“I strongly believe a central reservation on roads where you are doing 60mph should be there – I support anything that increases the safety on that road.”
The couple died after the Silver Ford Focus they were travelling in crashed head-on into a van travelling eastbound on the single lane of the three-lane carriageway.
An inquest at Wells Town Hall on Tuesday heard last year’s crash was most likely caused by Mr Hobday falling asleep at the wheel.
Witnesses travelling behind both vehicles involved in the collision said they saw the Ford Focus “drift” from the inside westbound lane into the outside lane, before crossing the double white lines into oncoming traffic.
The driver of the van involved in the collision, Andrew Pitman, 46, of Wellington, told the inquest he swerved to the right to avoid Mr Hobday’s car which looked like it was drifting into the embankment to his left.
But at the last minute, Mr Hobday swerved back towards the westbound lane where the head-on collision happened.
Mr Pitman said the collision sounded like an explosion. His colleague Garry Parker, who was travelling with him on the day, was seriously injured in the crash and spent a week in hospital, the hearing was told.
PC Andrew Grigg, of Avon and Somerset police’s collision investigation unit, told the inquest both Mr Hobday and Ms Edney – who was found in her pyjamas in the back seat – died at the scene. Ms Edney was not wearing a seat belt. The body of a dog was found in the footwell of the front passenger seat.
The inquest heard Mr Pitman was arrested for causing death by dangerous driving immediately after the incident, but was later released without charge.
Blood tests revealed Mr Hobday had no alcohol in his system, nor did either of the vehicles in the collision have any mechanical defects or faults which could have caused to the crash, the inquest heard.
Mr Grigg said the Ford Focus – which belonged to a friend of Mr Hobday’s – was spotted on traffic cameras leaving Essex around 3.30am that morning.
He added: “In my opinion, the cause of the collision was due to Mr Hobday either falling asleep or falling ill at the wheel.”
Mr Hobday died of a traumatic subarachnoid haemorrhage, secondary to basal skull fracture, while Ms Edney died of multiple injuries, the inquest heard.
Recording verdicts of accidental death, East Somerset Coroner Tony Williams said the crash was most likely caused by Mr Hobday falling asleep at the wheel.
He said: “We can’t be 100 per cent certain but it seems the most obvious explanation.”
He said visibility was good and traffic on the A303 was not heavy but busy.
A303 DUAL IT! CAMPAIGN - INTERACTIVE MAP
Our interactive map shows details of crashes dealt with by emergency services on the Somerset stretch of the A303 between 2006 and 2011. Data is from the Department of Transport.
Find your way around our interactive map using the navigation controls (top left of the map) or your mouse to scroll, or zoom in or out.
Click on the individual pins for details of each crash including date, time, conditions, number of vehicles involved and severity of injuries.
Red pins mark fatal collisions, yellow pins show collisions involving serious injury and blue pins show collisions with slight injury.
PRINT OUT OR DOWNLOAD YOUR A303 DUAL IT! PETITION
Click here to open our A303 Dual It! petition form. You can then save it to your computer, or print it out. Alternatively, fill in our online form below.